It Happened to Penelope

He died and Penelope survived.

They found her barely breathing.

Swimming naked in his clothing.

Trying to disappear without hurting herself.


To join him. Hear him speak, his voice in the back of her head.

She never agreed to the separation, was never consulted.

Still she can’t believe it, the empty house, the empty mug.

His lips, no response, his body confined, mingling amongst the earth.


Penelope puts her face into the body of his clothes, hanging there,

In the stillness of the wardrobe, her fingers crawl their way in, a hook,

Stretching into eternity, her love, his death, she tries to send him back to her,

As her nose digs in and sniffs, takes deep deep chunks of scent, inhales and leaves them


In herself, his scent running through her body filling it with life again.

No, he can’t be dead. It’s always the scent that brings people back.

So lively on her skin. She cannot erase him from her skin.

No shower since he last touched her, she wouldn’t.


And one by one, she picks up the clothes from the closet.

Socks, shirts and underwear, one day, one item.

Puts them on herself, dressed like him, she’s dancing and has two faces.

Never undresses, just putting one piece over another.


Hats, trousers, scarves, the closet getting empty.

Penelope can barely move, becomes so stiff amongst her second skin.

She cannot feel her own body anymore.

She cannot let go, she can’t.


He is there with her, layer by layer she tried to protect them both from what happened.

Penelope’s body is clogged, there is no room for expansion.

The mass of clothing sticks to her heart, the pressure is humongous.

She buried herself in him, the one she loved, the one whose scent is still there.


Holding on to her.

And she lies there on their bed and waits to sink in.

Take the air she says to him. And as she pictures her body next to his,

A bright light hits her eyes and she acknowledges that she has a life to live.


“Gabrielle Cot” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)


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